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2017 Legislative Session Update - Week 7

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Dear Friends,

The 2017 Legislative Session came to a close this past Saturday in what is formally known as Sine Die.   Despite this being a "short" 46-day session, I'm pleased to report that much was accomplished, as you will see in this final weekly recap.  

When session began, Virginia was facing a $1.2 billion shortfall. Governor McAuliffe’s package of budget amendments did not address a critical retention problem for the State Police, an unfulfilled pay raise for classified state employees, and much-needed salary increases for public school teachers. His plan also included higher fees, which the Republican majority sought to minimize. Senator Sturtevant, Senator Suetterlein and I not only opposed, but lobbied Senate leadership to remove any additional fees. I'm pleased to report that Senate leadership was responsive and honored our requests.

Not only did the General Assembly approve a fiscally conservative package of budget amendments, the budget plan was approved by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate – with bi-partisan support.  We raised the pay of State Police, as well as classified state employees and public school teachers, for which I enthusiastically advocated as well.  In fact, I expressed to leadership that I would only support and vote for a budget that included no additional fees or spending, included a pay raise for teachers and addressed wage and salary compression for our state police and sheriffs.  

The House and Senate have sent around 800 bills to the Governor’s desk for his consideration. On April 5, we’ll be reconvening to consider his proposed amendments to all the bills passed, including the budget.   

SB 872, which requires a photo ID to be presented when applying for an absentee ballot, has passed both houses and is headed to the Governor. He has pledged to veto this bill, despite its successful passage through both houses. I will offer this bill again next year and hope for a Republican governor who should sign this bill into law. It's imperative that we close this loophole that provides a potential for voter fraud.

You may have also heard about SB 1398, a study regarding coal ash disposal within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As many of you know, Dominion operates a Chesterfield Power Station in Chester. In addition to producing electricity, a byproduct called coal ash is also produced. Unfortunately, for over 50 years this coal ash was disposed of in multiple unlined coal ash ponds located within yards of the James River, in what is considered a 100 year flood plain. For the past year, I have worked with Dominion, constituents and the James River Association to monitor proper clean close of several of its ponds. The one thing I asked for was the cost associated with each clean close option. Why? Because according to the State Corporation Commission, Dominion is allowed to recoup the cost by passing said cost along to Dominion customers. So, it's important to get this right the first time. Dominion and the Department of Environmental Quality want to continue sealing and capping these mounds of coal ash simultaneously while they are also conducting this study which our bill requires. Unfortunately, after the bill passed out of the Senate, a House sub-committee gutted our bill with an amendment that Dominion provided. The bill passed in this gutted form and is before the Governor. I have been working with Senator Surovell and the Governor's office to restore some of the original components of the bill into the Governor's amendments, such as the one year moratorium on the closure of the ash ponds. This would allow for additional time for studies on the closure process, and how it will impact the environment and the rate payer. 

Many of you may have also seen news stories regarding HB 2191, pertaining to parental notification of sexually explicit materials used in the classroom. This legislation would require each school board to create procedures for handling controversial instructional materials; including procedures for notifying the parents of students when sexually explicit content is on the syllabus for the year. Teachers would provide alternatives for those who have objections to such content for their own child. HB 2191 defines "sexually explicit content" as content that involves any criminal sexual assault defined and punishable as a felony.

I'm also happy to say that the General Assembly has passed HB 1401 , which prohibits public institutions of higher education from abridging the first amendment freedom of any individual on campus. I've included a comprehensive list below of the bills I co-patroned which have passed both houses and are headed to the Governor for approval.  

If you have questions or comments, I will be available tonight, Monday, February 27, from 7 to 8:30pm at Manchester Middle School where I will give a brief update to the Chesterfield GOP. You may also schedule an appointment out of session on Tuesdays and Thursdays at our office.

Speaking of visiting our office, did you know that the General Assembly Building has received more visitors in the first month of the 2017 Session than in the entire 2016 Session? What our visitors may not know is that this is the last year we will meet in this General Assembly Building.  
Because I maintain my office in the General Assembly Building year-round, we will remain in the GAB until approximately July before moving over to the Pocahontas Building, which is at the bottom of the hill from the Capitol and across Bank Street. Stay tuned for updates on the exact date of our relocation. We will be available to meet with constituents throughout the moving process. 
Eventually, there will a new, permanent General Assembly Building on the same site where it the current one is located.  It will be ready to accommodate lawmakers and visitors from across Virginia for decades of sessions to come.  
Thank you to everyone who contacted my office, either in-person, on the phone, via social media, or email. I am so appreciative of all the feedback from constituents. Outside of session, I will continue to hold office hours to meet with constituents. Please contact my office at or 804-698-7511 to make arrangements for your visit.

I will also resume hosting Cut to the Chase with Senator Chase this coming Thursday from 4 to 5 pm on 820AM/WNTW The Answer. A heartfelt thanks to my dear friend Martha Boneta for filling in for me during session and providing weekly reports while I completed General Assembly work. Please continue to tune in.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your senator!


Amanda Chase


To view the full weekly update, click here!

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